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Contractors in isle bribery case will first face charges in Chicago

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The military contractors charged with bribing two Schofield Barracks soldiers to get a nearly $1.5 million U.S. defense contract in Afghanistan are scheduled to go to trial this summer in Chicago on similar charges involving three other American servicemen.

The lawyer for one of the contractors said the government sought the Hawaii indictment "to strengthen a weak case in Chicago."

A federal grand jury in Honolulu last month returned an indictment charging brothers Assad John Ramin and Tahir Ramin and their company AZ Corp. with conspiring to bribe and bribing two Schofield soldiers who were deployed at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, in 2004. The Ramins made their initial court appearance in Honolulu on Monday.

The soldiers, Sgt. Charles O. Finch and First Sgt. Gary M. Canteen, who were assigned to Schofield’s 725th Logistical Task Force, also are facing conspiracy and bribery charges.

The Ramins are naturalized U.S. citizens who fled Afghanistan in 1979 during the Soviet occupation.

A federal grand jury in Chicago returned an indictment in August 2008 charging the Ramins and two other military contractors in Afghanistan with bribing three American servicemen for defense contracts in 2004.

The servicemen, Air Force Master Sgt. Patrick W. Boyd, of the 496th Air Base Squadron, and Maj. Christopher P. West and Lt. Robert G. Moore, both of the Illinois Army National Guard’s 33rd Area Support Group, pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy and bribery charges and have agreed to testify against the contractors.

The Chicago case is scheduled for trial Aug. 16.

The government lawyers who are prosecuting the case also presented evidence to the grand jury in the Hawaii case.

Kirby Behre is the lawyer for Assad Ramin and AZ Corp. in the Chicago and Hawaii cases. He said the government has known the facts about the Hawaii case for five years but chose not to seek an indictment until the eve of the Chicago case.

He said the government sought the Hawaii indictment to force the remaining defendants in Chicago to plead guilty. Behre called the Hawaii indictment overkill and an abuse of the grand jury process.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Justice Department said she cannot comment on either case beyond what has been filed in court.


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